This benign looking vertical pinecone, as it is sometimes called, is actually a Conopholis americana, or Squaw Root, or Cancer Root. A member of the Orobanchacae, or Broomrape family, it is another chlorophyll free plant that feeds off of Oak Tree roots. And because it really takes so little nutrients, it doesn't harm or weaken the tree.
Because the word "squaw" is such a derogitory term, I hate using it, but the plant got its name from Native women boilng the roots to make an astringent, that they then applied during their cycles. The astringent caused the skin to pucker, and was also found useful in the treatment of hemorroids.
The other common name, Cancer Root was given because it was believed to be beneficial in the topical treatment of cancerous ulcers. It's cousin the Beech Drop also carries this common name for the same reason.
To ingest its bitter taste, will cause extreme nausea. I feel sorry for the people who found out the hard way.
Like the Indian Pipe, this plant comes up on its own, and is a poor transplant. It shows its first pale, cream colored, hairless spikes in late Spring, and will bloom soon after, into early Summer. Tubular flowers begin opening from the bottom up, and will take 3 weeks to complete blooming. They have no noticeable scent, and will begin wilting and turning brown after pollination. It self seeds, and also depends upon bears digesting it, to spread the seed.
It isn't particular about light sources, growing just as well in the semi dappled shade of its host tree, or under the darker canopy of a forest. And while this specific species favors the Northeast corner of the United States, it can be found as far West as Iowa, and North, far up into Canada. Of the 90 species, and 2000 genera of the Broomrape family, they've got the whole continent covered from coast to coast.
So when you are out enjoying those first warm days of Spring, look around the perimeters of trees in Oak or Beech forests for these unique, leafless plants! If you find a colony, you have been given a special gift! Enjoy the moment!
Our beautiful Header is courtesy of The Frog Queen.Special thanks to Marci Brandt for the photo .
When Seeds Are Planted
Intriguing things begin to grow!
On January 6, 2010, Jeanne, over at The Candy Corn Chronicles, began a two day series on the state of our plant and seed industry, and how much peril heirloom and native plant seeds are in of becoming extinct.
Over the next few days, Chris, aka, The Frog Queen, over at Frog On The Pumpkin, Becca of Magikal Seasons fame, and myself shared some of our thoughts and ideas about our gardens and our dreams.
Finding that while we are diverse not only in our climates, and our personal favorites in styles of gardening, we all agree in promoting a healthy green planet.
Taking it a step further, blending in our combined love of all things magickal and spooky into a group blog format, wasn't a stretch at all!
So here we are. Presenting a diverse assortment of botanical topics for your reading pleasure. We hope that you will join in with your comments and questions, sharing new ideas and rediscovering old ones.
Becca, Chris, Jeanne, Sherry & Suzie
"It is good to be alone in a garden at dawn or dark so that all its shy presences may haunt you and possess you in a reverie of suspended thought."
It is not the intent of this blog, or its contents to promote any herbal medical preparation or application, but merely to outline any potential medicinal properties of certain herbs, when discussing the plant as a whole.
We are not qualified medical personnel, nor certified herbalists and therefore it is strongly recommended that no one use any herbal treatments without seeking professional advice beforehand.